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Saturday, 5 November 2016

“Let there be light” – from darker times to excess brightness

The St John’s men’s group literally saw the light in early October during a wide-ranging talk
and demonstration on illumination over the centuries by Brian Bowers, a member of our
congregation and once a senior curator at the Science Museum in London.

Starting from the well known quotation from the third verse of Genesis in the Bible (and the
headline above), Brian took us on a very interesting journey linking Jane Austin’s darker
times, the eighteenth century Lunar Society of influential scientists, paraffin’s takeover from
smelly vegetable oils, poet Sir John Betjeman, gaslights, carbon arc lamps, filament lamps,
fluorescent lamps and the LEDs (light emitting diodes) that are the most efficient and
cheapest way of producing light in various situations today.

The church Reading Group came to mind as we learned of a reference in Austin’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ to the importance of knowing the phases of the moon to decide whether to go out at night. Nights around the full moon were said to have been favoured for evening social
events, since moonlight made travelling after dark easier.

A lively discussion afterwards produced more enlightenment on “light pollution” from too

much light these days, lighthouses and much more. 

Roger Jeal.

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